Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Monkees, Marketing, and You.

The subject of the The Monkees comes up, sadly, because of Davy Jones’ passing. Unfortunately, I never saw them live. I was a wee lass when the show was on and was dazzled by their slapstick comedy and there music though never understood the story lines!

The first two albums were played repeatedly on my brother’s turntable (I didn’t have my own record player until a few years later). And, being a young kid with a short attention span I lost interest when Headquarters was released. My cousin Debbie waved her LP around in utter delight, but my mind was elsewhere, concentrating on top 40 hits.

I was too young then to know about any of the drama going on behind the scenes. The Monkees was designed to be a TV show about the everyday antics of four guys in a struggling pop group. The objective: TV ratings and millions of record sales. It worked. For a while.

Don Kirshner, serving as musical supervisor, was so focused on the success of The Monkees that perhaps he forgot sometimes he was dealing with real people. All had entertainment backgrounds; Mike and Peter in the music realm, while Mickey and Davy had acted at an early age. It was frustrating to them, especially Mike, to not be allowed to play their own instruments. Did you know that Glen Campbell played the guitar on “Mary Mary”, a tune that Mike penned?

The sneakiest maneuver on Don’s part may have been when he brought Davy solo into the studio to get just HIS vocals on a few tracks. Rumor has it that Carole King and Neil Diamond, who wrote several Monkees hits (not together), may have sung background. “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, one of the songs with only Davy on it, turned out to be a big hit, almost a #1.

However, the song, or rather the action surrounding the song caused Kirshner to lose his job, and the 45 was re-released, this time with a B side containing one of Mike’s own songs. That song, “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” turned out to be the first tune for group where they played all the instruments to crack the top 40. This marked the turnover of musical control to The Monkees.

At one point, Don Kirschner presented the song Sugar Sugar to the group and wanted them to add the vocals. It never happened and eventually Don found a “group” to sing the song that wasn’t going to challenge his creative control. You know them as The Archies. Ron Dante, the voice behind The Archies is yet another talent that never received his due.

Some trivia: Did you know that Davy was considered to be the drummer originally because the producers thought he had the potential to play better? He wound up as singer/percussionist because he was too short to be seen behind the drum kit.

Lesson learned: Don’t “Monkee” around with people! Rather than treat people as puppets take their input and listen to it, adapt it, and welcome those ideas!

My favorite Monkee? Well, initially it was Peter, then Mickey. I wasn’t pleased with Mickey’s new “do” though! And my friends? Davy all the way. You will be missed, Davy Jones.

Click here to read a post from sister blog Groovy Reflections as the team there reflects on The Monkees and Davy Jones.


Shannon Grissom said...

Wow! Who knew? Interesting Monkey Business indeed!

Anonymous said...

Davy was one of my first heartthrob' Shannon I had no idea about the politics behind the show...good read thanks.

Gerry Wendel said...

Yes, it's amazing what goes on behind the scenes. Monkey business it was.

Gerry Wendel said...

Let's hope that this sort of thing doesn't go on today. The really scary piece that isn't included in the article is that Don Kirshner received 15% of the royalties, while each Monkee received 1.5%. That would barely buy a bunch of bananas.